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Several months ago, we told you about a federal court of appeals’ decision in a case in which a medical malpractice insurance company sought a declaratory judgment as to its responsibility to cover certain acts of malpractice after it was discovered that a fake nursing home “doctor” had illegally assumed the identity of a physician who was out of the country.

In that decision, the appellate court held that the principles of equity demanded that there be coverage for the innocent co-insureds under the medical malpractice policy that was in place during the impostor’s time at the nursing home.

Now, the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, Columbia Division, has issued a new opinion in a related matter.

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country roadSince our office regularly represents people who have been seriously injured in a car accident or lost a loved one in a fatal motor vehicle collision, we are well aware of the tragic frequency at which automobile crashes happen on the highways of South Carolina.

Still, it is with great concern that we review the most recent collection of traffic collision facts published by the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.

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test tubesCivil claims not asserted in a timely fashion face dismissal on procedural grounds, regardless of the merits of the underlying complaint. The time period that a claimant has to assert his or her rights varies from case to case, depending upon the state in which the claim arose and the nature of the complaint.

In South Carolina, some claims (including medical malpractice claims) are governed by both a statute of limitations and a statute of repose. Essentially, the statute of repose allows additional time in situations in which the plaintiff does not discover the act of malpractice within the time otherwise allowed by the statute of limitations, but it still puts an outer window on the period for filing suit.

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fast food

Those who own and operate places of business have a duty to keep their premises reasonably safe for customers and other business invitees. This includes the duty to protect guests from criminal activity in some situations. However, the burden is on the injured person to prove that the property owner acted negligently.

The issue in such cases is often whether the attack was reasonably foreseeable, given such factors as the location of the establishment and any history of violence in the area.

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wooden gavel

Nursing home owners do not like jury trials. In fact, the idea of a jury comprised of everyday men and women determining whether a nursing home neglected a patient and, if so, awarding damages to a patient or the patient’s family is so distasteful to many nursing home owners that they require a patient or his or her representative to sign an arbitration agreement – a contractual promise to arbitrate, rather than litigate through the court system, any disputes that arise between the parties – prior to admission.

When negligence lawsuits and other nursing home cases are determined through arbitration, the patient and the patient’s family lose the right to have a jury decide the case. Often, the family does not fully understand the implication of this distinction at the time the papers are signed.

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school busWhen an employee dies as a result of a work-related injury, his or her dependents are entitled to receive compensation in most cases. However, if an employee who is injured on the job dies from unrelated causes while his or her case is pending, the situation can be much more complex.

A South Carolina appellate court was recently asked to review the issues in such a case, the employee having died from causes unrelated to a very serious on-the-job injury he had suffered prior to his death.

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construction worker's hatGenerally speaking in South Carolina, a person who is injured on the job (or the family of a person who is killed while in the course and scope of his or her employment) is restricted to recovery of the benefits available under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation law. This is true even if it was the employer’s negligence that led to the employer’s injury or death.

This is because of the so-called “exclusivity provision” of the workers’ compensation law, which provides that relief under such law shall be the sole remedy in the event of a workplace injury or death. The good news is that workers’ compensation cases tend to be less contentious than negligence lawsuits, but the bad news is that the amount recovered in a workers’ compensation action tends to be considerably less than could potentially have been recovered in a negligence case.

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school busEvery driver should know that South Carolina state law requires a motorist to stop when he or she is meeting or overtaking a school bus with its flashing red lights activated.

For obvious safety reasons, a driver is simply not allowed to pass a stopped school bus, nor is he or she allowed to drive past such a bus from the opposite direction. This much is clear from the plain language of the statute.

However, there can be other, less obvious situations involving a driver’s obligation to stop in the presence of a school bus with its lights flashing. In a case recently considered by the South Carolina Court of Appeals, one driver apparently assumed that it was safe to make a left turn when the bus was stopped, but another driver passed the bus and struck the first driver’s car in the side.

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calculator and receiptBeing successful in a wrongful death lawsuit arising from a motor vehicle accident requires that the plaintiff prove the basic elements of negligence (duty, breach of duty, damages, and causation). Unfortunately, however, not every legally sound case results in a fair amount of compensation for the victim’s family.

The second – and more practical – inquiry focuses on the actual payment of the damages award entered by the trial court. If the responsible party does not have adequate insurance (or personal assets) to cover the judgment, the plaintiff could be left with very little, if any, monetary compensation, even in a clear-cut case of liability.

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golf cart

Do you have insurance on your home? Do you know what it covers?

As a recent case shows, if you have homeowner’s liability insurance, you might think you are covered for more situations than you actually are. It’s always a good idea to review your policy from time to time so that you understand exactly what is – and is not – covered.

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